For the past week many people have been trying to determine whether Google had built (and submitted) a replacement app for Google Maps for the iPhone. There were even some reports, now largely debunked, that Google had in fact submitted an app and it was waiting for Apple’s approval. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt seemed to definitively quash those rumors today in Tokyo.
Schmidt is quoted by Bloomberg and Reuters saying, “We haven’t done anything yet with Google Maps.” However he added that, if there were such an app, Cupertino would need to approve it, “It’s their choice.” That goes without saying; all apps must be approved by Apple before they enter the App Store.
When YouTube was removed as one of the “default apps” in iOS 6 Google quickly moved to build a new native app, which was in the App Store days before iOS 6 came out. It’s curious that Google hasn’t done something similar with Maps. I’m sure there are several things about this story we don’t know; and until Schmidt made is remarks earlier today there had just been deafening silence from Google on the matter.
The question is: why wouldn’t Google build a new Google Maps app for iOS 6? The NY Times cites comScore data for the proposition that iPhone owners are (or were) heavier users of Google Maps than even Android owners:
In July, according to comScore Mobile Metrix, 12.6 million iPhone users visited Maps each day, versus 7.6 million on Android phones. And iPhone users spent an hour and a half using Maps during the month, while Android users spent just an hour.
If this is accurate why isn’t Google seeking to ensure that usage continues? Is it because Google made little or no ad revenue from maps on the iPhone? This has never been Google’s way of thinking about products. Indeed Google issued a statement last week that suggests it very much wants to retain the iOS audience:
We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world. Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.
Perhaps Google sees a competitive advantage here: the only way to get Google Maps now is to buy an Android handset. My theory had always been that we never saw navigation and other advanced features of Google Maps on the iPhone because the company was trying to entice buyers to the Android platform. However, Google argued against that idea with me during a discussion several months ago.
Google has seen Apple Maps coming for quite some time — perhaps two or more years. So why isn’t there a replacement Google Maps app? Unless my competition theory above is correct, something about all this doesn’t entirely add up.
Postscript: See our follow-up piece on why this apparent contradiction may make sense, The Good & Bad Scenarios About Why Google Hasn’t “Done Anything Yet” About Google Maps For iOS.